Please Read This Blog If It Doesn’t Affect You

There are c23,000 financial advisers registered with the FCA.

There are c2,000 members of the Institute of Financial Planning (IFP), c80% of which are advisers.

2:23 is not a good ratio. If you’re one of the 21,000, please read on. Because the reason that I am voting for the merger of the IFP with the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment (CISI) is entirely because of you.

I’ve been a member of the IFP for some 17 years now. Not a very good member – I don’t go to many branch meetings and haven’t volunteered for anything. But I do go to the conference every year, and I do consider their Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation a far more worthy qualification than any of those I have from the CII.

The trouble is, not enough other people know this too.

On the rare occasion I have to speak to a recruiter I stress that an ideal adviser or paraplanner for us will have CFP. They invariably respond “How do you spell CFP?”.

We expect all our technical staff to be members of the IFP. New staff often haven’t heard of it, and are never already members. This lack of awareness for something so vital is troubling.

The IFP has been instrumental in changing many firms for the better. For me it represents a flag in the sand around which planners can gather. We aren’t afraid to share good practice, we don’t puff out our chests and boast about how busy we are.

It’s very rare that I meet someone who is a serious cricket fan and not like them. I think it’s something about shared core values. I have the same experience with IFP members.

The thing I love most about the IFP is that it exists.

And now they want to merge with a bunch of stockbrokers! At first this felt counter intuitive. I’ve written often about how I find investments to be the least interesting or useful part of what we planners do. So how can joining the CISI be a good thing?

Well, as Chris Williams (an IFP Board Member) pointed out at a recent consultation, it is precisely because the two organisations are so different that this might just work. The CISI has c40,000 members and I’m guessing many just aren’t interested in the bones of financial planning. What they are recognising is that proper financial planning makes clients much more ‘sticky’.

Anyone can go on the internet and get an asset allocation. Anyone can download the latest tips or someone’s ‘Golden Fifty’ funds. But being challenged on your assumptions, creating forecasts, integrating tax and pension planning, creating a workable plan for a financial future to achieve dreams, this is the remit of the planner and is not so easy to to download. It needs an individual. A person. It creates client loyalty.

I really do think the principles embodied by the IFP provide the answers to the future of the industry, be they regulatory concerns, complaints/FSCS/PI costs, or Robo advisers.

More advisers should join the IFP, in my opinion (and there’s nothing wrong with being a member of more than one organisation). No-one wants to be the best kept secret.

And so if this merger really is, as the board of the IFP tell us (people with great integrity and passion for the IFP), the best way – the only way – to get more advisers truly understanding the importance of planning, then it gets my vote.